My husband has a lot of glassware for his beer. Before I met Bryce, I pretty much just drank my beer in whatever receptacle it was served to me in—bottle, pint glass, red plastic cup, and so on. I was none the wiser to the reasoning behind serving beer in a particular glass shape.
Enter Bryce. The first time I met him he taught me about the best way to drink my Blue Moon, and I haven’t looked back. I learned that there's more to glassware than just making your drink look nicer. Each beer style has its own optimal glass type that works to release the style’s flavors, ergo, making your beer drinking experience as good as possible.
The shape of a glass affects the way beer looks, smells, and tastes. Now I know some of you might be thinking “but I like drinking my beer out of the bottle”, but just bear with me on this.
Okay, here we go.
When picking out a glass, start with the overall proportions—the height and diameter.
If your beer is light in color and low in alcohol, go with a tall & narrow glass. They keep light lagers and ales cold longer, which need to stay around 40 F to remain crisp and refreshing.
If you have a beer that’s dark in color and higher in alcohol, pick a short & wide glass. They allow beer to warm, which releases more aroma. The best flavors and aromas in dark and strong ales and lagers don’t emerge until closer to 50 F.
If your beer is between light and bold, pick a glass of average height and diameter. Proportions are pretty easy, right?
Next comes the shape of the mouth.
When the mouth flares in, it directs beer towards the back of your tongue where you taste more bitterness—good for hoppy beers like IPAs. Flaring in also concentrates the beer’s aroma right at your nose.
When the mouth flares out, it spreads beer to the sides of your tongue where you taste more sourness—good for Belgians, lambics, and aged beers. Flaring out also conforms to your lips, making each sip more comfortable.
Large diameter mouths are for easy drinking—fun for session beers. Small diameter ones are better for sipping—a good way to savor higher alcohol brews.
One cool feature some glasses have is Nucleation Sites – fine texturing inside the glass on the bottom. Nucleation assists in forming and keeping a nice foamy head on beer, because it releases a steady stream of carbonation. Nucleation Sites are added inside the glass by etching, engraving, lasering, or sandblasting after the glass is molded. If you don’t want to replace your nice beer glasses for ones with nucleation sites, it’s okay. Beer Stones achieve the same foamy head effect in any beer glass.
Still hankering for more details regarding beer glassware design? Check out Brew Muse’s educational page on beer glassware.
As always, how you drink your beer is up to you. Serving beer in the “optimal” glass is a way for people to get the most out of their beer drinking experience. If your goal of drinking beer is to take your time and explore the flavors, busting out a good glass (and washing it later) is well worth the effort.